Thursday, 4 August 2011

Paps of Jura: Two out of Three Aint Bad!

Whilst working on Jura last week, I had a day free to enjoy out in the hills with Wally.  It was impossible to resist the lure of the Paps of Jura, and yes, "pap" does mean breast. Jura has three very shapely ones, which are visible from the high points of my own island, so I was keen to get a closer look.

Approaching Beinn Shiantaidh, the "Sacred Mountain".

There are no paths for walking the paps that are marked on the maps, and a bit of research on the mobile internet did not reveal many clues as to approach, so we made it up as we went along. We approached from the north, via Evans Walk, and cut across bog and heather until we were standing under the Northeast face of Beinn Shiantaidh, gaelic for "Sacred Mountain".  From here, a treacherous scree path picks its way up improbably steep slopes between crags, scree and steep heather.

The screes did not look any easier as we got nearer. 

At times it seemed as if we were climbing the biggest pile of stones in Scotland. 

At last the angle eased, and the summit came in to view. As we posed for pictures on the top, I hoped that an easier descent would present itself, as the route we had come by did not seem a good option for heading down. 

The pile of stones had a top! Beinn Shiantaidh summit. 755m.

Happily I can report that there are easier ways on and off the mountain to the south, and after a few false leads we were soon descending a straightforward mossy gully under the nose of the south ridge. 
We turned our attention to the second and highest of the paps, Beinn an Oir, the "Mountain of Gold".  The good news was,  a clear path up the stony flanks was visible. 

Beinn an Oir, Mountain of Gold. 785m

From the top the views were stupendous, and we could easily see the mountains and hills of home, looming on the horizon beyond the Kintyre Peninsula. 

The south ridge of Beinn Shiantaidh, with Arran visible beyond.

We were also able to look across to the final Pap, Beinn a Chaolais, or "Mountain of the Sound", which overlooks the sound between Islay and Jura. It didn't look very inviting; more like another towering scree trudge, so we decided to head back to the coast and an awaiting beer, with plans to return, and approach from a new trail that has been laid as part of a hydro scheme to the west.  It looks like an ascent of all three would be easily achieved with that approach.

More stones... Beinn a Chaolais, the one that got away. 734m. 

Lovely views back to Beinn a Chaolais as we retreated in the afternoon heat for our beer.

Wild Wild West: Islay, Jura and Kintyre

Its been a hectic few weeks up here with lots and lots of work, leading guided walks to look for otters and other wildlife, as well as mountain walks in the hills.  I've also picked up so interesting work doing butterfly surveys for Butterfly Conservation's Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey, which has definitely taken me off the beaten track! Below are some photos from my recent trip to the wild wild west of Scotland.  In the next update I'll write about about a walk up the Paps of Jura on my day off.

Islay is the place for big skies and long beaches.... This is Loch Gruinart. A great place for watching seals and other marine wildlife, and also hooching with common blue butterflies when I was there.

Big skies make for big sunsets.  Perfect with a glass of Islay whisky!

The Oa Peninsula is a great place for dramatic coastal walking, and if you are lucky you might just catch sight of a chough tumbling in the wind.

This is the American Monument, on the southern tip of the Oa, erected in memory of the men who were lost when two American troopships went down off the coast of Islay towards the end of WW1.

On the little boat across the Sound of Islay to Jura.  I'll blog about the Paps of Jura in my next entry. 

Back on Islay, this is the loch at Finlaggan, where the great halls of the kings of Dalriada stood on crannogs linked to the land by a causeway. 

Heavenly meadowsweet in bloom on the boggy shores around Finlaggan. 

On to Kintyre, this is the rocky coast near Carradale, with Ailsa Craig just visible on the horizon.

And finally, a tranquil beach on the west coast of Kintyre, looking back beyond Gigha towards Islay and the Paps of Jura.